New study links gut microbiome with psychiatric disorders

The findings suggest physicians look to diet and the microbial makeup of the gut as a therapeutic target for anxiety and depression.

By Brooks Hays

BATON ROUGE, La., March 26 (UPI) -- The role of microbes in dictating human health is an increasingly popular research subject. A new study by researchers at Louisiana State University suggests high-fat diets can cause brain inflammation and alter behavior.

Scientists say the neurological changes are triggered by changes in the gut's bacterial makeup, or gut microbiome or microbiota. Previous studies have pinpointed a link between gut microbes and psychological disorders like anxiety and depression.


To further test the link between mind and stomach, researchers at LSU decided to study the effects of an obesity-related microbiota on a healthy, non-obese mouse. In other words, healthy mice were injected with microbiota transplanted from the guts of obese mice -- mice subsisting on high-fat diets.

Once subjected to the high-fat microbiota, the mice exhibited a number of behavioral changes -- an uptick in anxiety, impaired memory, repetitive behaviors and more. Researchers also observed physiological symptoms, including inflammation of the digestive system and brain.

The findings were published in the latest issue of the science journal Biological Psychiatry.

"This paper suggests that high-fat diets impair brain health, in part, by disrupting the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microorganisms that occupy our gastrointestinal tracts," Dr. John Krystal, the editor of of Biological Psychiatry, explained in a press release.


Scientists say the evidence confirms that diet-induced changes to the gut microbiome can have immediate and profound effects on brain function. The findings also suggest physicians look to diet and microbial makeup as a therapeutic target for neuropsychiatric disorders.

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